March 7, 2018

Leadership in disruptive technologies

Written by: Alexander Müller – Partner, AIMS Germany, Global Head Automotive

When we are discussing one of the most important considered topics in management – leadership – we find a lot of approaches, different theories and industry perspectives. Unsurprisingly, these often called “new” findings on leadership just repeat identical content under new headlines. At best, these new findings refer to validated scientific researches and operational studies in management consultancy and are indeed neither new nor revolutionary.

At worst, they refer to non-validated material, individualistic pseudo-philosophy or even cabalistic insights. In fact, repeating the same procedures year after year does not confirm the correctness at all. Now what does this mean for leadership in disrupted industries like the Automotive Industry for example?

Measures taken in the past in changing situations – remember, previously we called that “Change Management” – are implemented  in the same way as ever, caused by the expectation that it works. Of course it`s hard to find out instantaneously that it does not.

The reason for repeating this dysfunctional leadership approach is that the perspective did not change. As long as management is not able to change perspective, it will stay ineffective. Regarding the exemplary and famous failed change of KODAK some years ago, management could not get a grip on new developments and neglected the technology trends and market developments due to a cashcow-model running out of time. This was disruption at its best.

The Automotive industry today is confronted by a similar development, still sticking to the old technology, at least anticipating the change, but still in urgent need of action plans to manage. The more you move in the marsh, the more you sink. The actions taken are disclosing desperate attempts to survive the current state as long as possible, while sinking deeper in the mud. What an ironic picture this brings to mind: Automotive needing horses to get out of the swamp.

If the perspective changes, solutions are so close, in fact brilliant heads have been working on it for years. Managers are obliged not to be busy with the old world but to keep an eye on those brilliant heads who are able to develop transformation fast. Automotive leadership should no longer insist on achievements of the past but rather change their perspective and take a focussed, sharp look at the intelligent, bright people and leaders working on solutions in alternative business models; considering future alternative powertrains, massive emission reduction, new mobility concepts, autonomous driving, new manufacturing concepts and digital services. Leadership means developing people, technologies and markets, finding best solutions as an ongoing continuous process with a steady hand, a clear vision and focussed attitude.

Automotive is dead? No, as long as it is open for disruption and change. Automotive has the kind of leaders who have proven capabilities to manage disruptive technologies. We meet those leaders along our way as Executive Search Consultants and know where to find them. We are the horses, helping to get our clients out of the swamp.

Alexander Müller – Partner, AIMS Germany, Global Head Automotive

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